Tennis: Russia in thriller to reach Fed Cup final

Four-time champions Russia became the first team to come back from 2-0 down in a Fed Cup semi-final to complete a 3-2 triumph over Slovakia on Sunday.

Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina sealed the crucial point when they recovered from a set down to beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the deciding doubles rubber in two hours and 28 minutes.

Russia maintained their perfect record against Slovakia, adding this weekend's victory to wins in their two previous Fed Cup meetings, in Bratislava in 1999 and then two years later in Moscow.

"We didn't play such hard and important matches for a long, long time," said Vesnina, whose team lost both of Saturday's singles to slip 2-0 down to the 2002 champions.

"After a disastrous first day we still believed that we could win the encounter. Luckily we managed to do it."

The Slovakian pair broke Makarova's serve in the 10th game to clinch a one-set lead in 54 minutes.

The hosts replied positively in the second set breaking their rivals on three occasions to level at one set all after one hour 47 minutes on court.

In the deciding set, the Russians underlined their supremacy producing two more breaks to win the set, the match and a place in the final.

Earlier on Sunday Makarova pulled Russia level at 2-2, beating world number 75 Hantuchova in a tough three-setter 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to record her first ever win over the Slovak veteran.

"I was hoping to clinch my first win over Hantuchova and luckily, I managed to do it," said Makarova.

Left-hander Makarova came onto the clay of Moscow's Krylatskoye Sports Center as a replacement for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

In Sunday's opening rubber, Maria Kirilenko beat Cibulkova 7-5, 6-1 to reduce the arrears to 2-1.

Kirilenko, ranked 13th in the world, made light work of an opponent she has now beaten in three of four meetings as she triumphed in 1hr 41min.

"After yesterday's failure I managed to find my tennis today and it was the key to success in the match," Kirilenko said.

On Saturday, Slovakia had moved into a commanding 2-0 lead after Cibulkova had battled back from a set down to beat Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, while Hantuchova saw off Kirilenko 6-2, 6-4.

The winner will face either Italy or reigning champions Czech Republic in the Fed Cup final in November.

Italy led the Czechs 2-1 with that clash in Palermo to be completed on Monday because of rain.